Last month, I enjoyed an incredible holiday in Italy, my first trip since the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. You can read my hotel reviews here:
- Review: Bellevue Hotel & Spa, Aosta Valley (Alps)
- Review: Il Sereno, Lake Como
- Review: Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como
- Review: Grand Hotel Portovenere, Cinque Terre (today)
- Review: Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino
Today (September 9, 2020): Review of Grand Hotel Portovenere, Cinque Terre (Italy)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Grand Hotel Portovenere
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Grand Hotel Portovenere is located on the most panoramic point of the charming village of Portovenere, overlooking the Ligurian Sea and the island of Palmaria. This converted 16th-century Franciscan monastery sits at the direct point where the UNESCO-designated Cinque Terre meets the celebrated Gulf of Poets. A modern decor and a soft palette create a soothing ambience in the 47 rooms; the higher the floor, the better the pinch-me views over the sea and Palmaria Island. Soak it all in over Rossinis on the Venus Bar’s veranda or contemporary regional fare in the restaurant. From the hotel, it’s easy to visit nearby attractions such as Cinque Terre, Lerici and Tuscany – by boat, car or train.
Have you ever stayed at Grand Hotel Portovenere? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Grand Hotel Portovenere is the only 5-star hotel in the territory that – together with neighboring Cinque Terre – is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stretching 15 km (9 mi) along the eastern Ligurian coast, the jagged coastal landscape is home to five iconic medieval villages with perfectly preserved architecture: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Due to overtourism, these villages are no longer the isolated hamlets they once were, but they still feel authentic and are connected via a network of magnificent coastal and mountain trails. The hotel is an ideal base to explore the area, since it’s right in front of the harbor where ferry boats run daily to Cinque Terre’s famous villages .
- The hotel overlooks the medieval village of Portovenere, which is the entry point to the Cinque Terre (and often dubbed Cinque Terre’s sixth village). This fishing hamlet features typically thin and tall buildings of all colors, huddled against each other on the small harbor and along the narrow ‘carrugio’ alley. Points of interest include the small Church of St. Peter on the tip of a rocky spur, Byron’s grotto, a XII-century castle, and ancient towers. Across the harbor are the beautiful Islands of Palmaria and Tinetto, with a lush vegetation that contrasts with the clear blue sea. Even though Portovenere is considered as a base from which to explore nearby Cinque Terre, it is a beautiful travel destination highly noteworthy on its own.
- The boutique hotel is located on the most romantic and panoramic spot of Portovenere’s fishing hamlet, overlooking the small port right opposite Palmaria Island. It’s just a two-minute stroll to the quaint pedestrian piazza of the village, where there are shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s about a 10 minute walk to reach The Church of St. Peter, at the tip of the peninsula on which Portovenere sits, and Doria Castle, a stronghold when the powerful republic of Genoa ruled the town. The property is also less than 5 minutes’ walk away from where boats depart for the Cinque Terre, and it also provides its guests with garage parking, a real luxury in this part of Italy (complimentary vallet parking is provided for direct bookings only).
- The hotel is housed in a building which dates back to the 1600s, when it hosted the monastery called “Convento di San Francesco” under its elegant vaults and simple interiors. Towards the mid 1800s, the monastery was first transformed into the Hospital of the Marine Military, and later in the headquarters of the Municipality of Porto Venere. In 1975, the historic complex was turned into a hotel that eventually closed in the 2000s. In 2014 it reopened under a new management after an impressive refurbishment and careful restoration, which brought back to life beautiful details of the original convent, including red-brick vaulted ceilings and the wide courtyard outdoors (which was once the cloister of the convent).
- Grand Hotel Portovenere’s elegant decor blends historic elements with modern comforts. From the outside, the hotel has the look of a majestic Italian mansion, with a cave-like arched walkway on the ground floor and a gorgeous pink facade with large windows framed by green shutters. Inside, the property feaures a surprisingly modern, bright and stylish decor, both in the lobby space on the street level and the restaurant & bar on the first floor. The contemporary interiors are a welcome respite from the Italian Riveira’s mostly outdated historic properties. The upscale ambience and serene harbor-front setting provide the perfect setting for a memorable Cinque Terre holiday, and not surprisingly guests are mostly discerning travelers.
- The hotel has 50 rooms, all of them reflecting the pastel colors of the surrounding landscape through a modern and sophisticated design. During my visit, I was upgraded to a Double Executive room on the property’s top floor, which featured a kingsize bed and a marble bathroom equipped with one sink and a walk-in shower. The room’s highlight was a small terrace, which had an Instagram-worthy view of Portovenere village and the sea. The most prestigious rooms are called Suite dei Poeti and Suite del Castello. The former features long windows with breathtaking views over Palmaria Island and the Gulf of Poets; the latter offers a spacious terrace overlooking the majestic Doria Castle and the colorful village of Portovenere.
- Grand Hotel Portovenere features a fine dining restaurant, called Palmaria Restaurant, with boasts a terrace with magnificent view of the village and Palmaria Island. The venue’s executive chef, Massimiliano Volonterio, a former sous-chef at Maison Alain Ducasse, masterminds the seasonal menu, which is inspired by the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and the innlands of Liguria. For example, the dinner menu includes dishes like turbot darma on cereal cream and beetroot, linguine “Morelli” with mussels carbonara sauce, and beef cube roll, colonnata lard and flavored oil. Breakfast is also served at Palmaria: due to COVID-19, the hotel’s traditional buffet is currently replaced by a la carte dishes complemented by a small contintal buffet.
- The friendly and experienced staff can assist guests in organizing excursions by sea or land, cycling and trekking tours, eno-gastronomic tastings, diving expeditions, yacht or sailboat rentals, cultural visits and religious trips, among others. Every corner of the Gulf of Poets offers amazing sights, varied activities and traditional events at different times of the year. Among the most spectacular annual events are the Madonna Bianca celebrations in Portovenere, and the historic Palio del Golfo, a regatta among the villages overlooking the Bay of La Spezia.
- Grand Hotel Portovenere has a small spa, called “Portovenere Wellness Center”, which offers a humid zone with Turkish bath, sauna and a relaxation area with herbal. A wide variety of beauty and wellness treatments are offered with Jeidant and Trebosi products being used, which are all-Italian natural lines with intense antioxidant and regenerating action. Upon reservation, guests can also enjoy a massage in the comfort of their room. There’s also a fitness room with a few cardio machines and free weights.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- Facilities at the hotel are limited as there’s not much beyond it’s 50 rooms, fine dining restaurant and small spa. There is no pool, due to the fact that the architects had to work within the constraint of existing structures in the heritage building. That said, I couldn’t help but think how nice it would have been if there was a pool on the current restaurant terrace, with the restaurant being moved inside (since a lot of the venue’s indoor space is not used). Perhaps it might be an idea for the owners to consider during the hotel’s next renovation.
- Duing my visit, the gym was closed on Monday and Tuesday. I found this to be an odd policy, since gyms at most hotels are open 24/7.
- Parking is available to guests in a small garage, but it’s only offered on a complimentary basis when the booking is made directly via the hotel (otherwise, guests have to pay a fee).
- The hotel partners with one of the most beautiful beach clubs in Portovenere, a 10 min walk from the Grand Hotel. However, beach service is subject to extra charge (45 euros per room per day, or 35 euros per room for half a day).
- Not all rooms have an open view since about half of the rooms overlooks the property’s inner courtyard, which was once a cloister’s convent.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: n/a
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 8/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good – 8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, complimentary parking, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Grand Hotel Portovenere (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: I recommend to pay extra for a room with a view of Portovenere’s harbor (since that view alone is worth a stay at the property).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best months to visit Portovenere & Cinque Terre are September and October: weather is delightful and emptied-out trails await. During summertime, hotel rates soar and it gets extremely busy on the Cinque Terre trails. The wintertime, from November to February, is characterized by cold weather and hiking trails are not always accessible due to very heavy rainfall. Spring is another pleasant shoulder season, which – like fall – can be accompanied by a chance of rain.
HOW TO GET THERE
Portovenere is located halfway between the Italian cities of Genua and Pisa, and can be best reached by (rental) car. From Portovenere, sevral boats a day depart for Cinque Terre National Park (the small harbor is right in front of the hotel).